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General strike in Syria intensifies the revolt

by Siân Ruddick

The uprising in Syria took a dramatic turn on Sunday as workers held a general strike.

The strike was widely observed in the Daraa province in the south of the country. This is where many of the major confrontations with the regime have taken place.

In Homs, the city at the centre of the revolt, shops were shuttered and markets were closed.

Soldiers still loyal to President Bashar al-Assad tried to force open shop shutters—but people formed human barricades to stop them.

Market stallholders also observed the strike. The shopping streets were deserted across the province as people joined the walkout. Security forces in Homs looted some of the closed businesses.

Schools across the region were closed as teachers struck. They were joined by others, including transport workers.

The strike is part of a campaign of civil disobedience called by the revolutionary movement.

Activists plan to shut down universities, public transport, the civil service and major highways in a bid to push the brutal regime to breaking point.

Government forces burned down a factory near the country’s largest city, Aleppo, because its workers were striking.

The Local Coordination Committees make up the grassroots of the revolution.

They reported that Damascus university was almost completely shut down as students and lecturers struck on Sunday.

They also said that in Ibtaa, also in Daraa, young men blocked the main road. The strike was solid in Ibtaa and Daeel, Daraa.

Legitimacy

Some of the opposition is organised around the Syrian National Council (SNC).

Samir Nashar, a member of the SNC, said, “The strike aims to send a message to the Arab countries and the international community that the Syrian regime has lost its legitimacy.”

Some in the SNC are keen to negotiate a settlement with older layers of the ruling class. But the power of the strike shows that the movement can fight for itself.

Alongside the development of strikes in Syria, defecting army soldiers and officers now make up a key part of the resistance.

They form an armed body that protects demonstrations and sabotages government checkpoints.

At least three military vehicles were set ablaze during fighting between the army and defectors in Daraa as rebel forces grow bolder.

More troops have defected in recent days and the clashes occurred as they sought to protect civilians from attacks.

But the Assad regime is as determined as it is bloody. It has set up over 60 checkpoints in and around the city of Homs. This is causing revolutionaries to fear that they are preparing for a siege on the city.

Syria’s neighbours are also getting nervous. Syria has close diplomatic and trade connections with Jordan.

While Jordan’s rulers have been slow to make any criticism of Syria, they fear that the unrest will spill over its porous borders.

Protesters stormed the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan’s capital, on Sunday.

The development of strikes and civil disobedience as a tactic inside Syria’s revolution points the way forward.

As we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia, organised workers and strikes have a crucial role to play in toppling hated dictators.


Article information

International
Tue 13 Dec 2011, 17:13 GMT
Issue No. 2283
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